Australia has received international backing for an independent inquiry into coronavirus as its trade tensions with China face further strain.
A draft resolution calling for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the responses to the pandemic has been co-sponsored by 62 countries, including India, Japan, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, Russia and all 27 EU member states.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it’s crucial to review the events of earlier this year to avoid a repeat.
“There is positive support for an independent review into the pandemic to help the world learn the lessons necessary to protect global health,” Senator Payne told The Australian.
“This is about collaborating to equip the international community to better prevent or counter the next pandemic and keep our citizens safe.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said the push for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 crisis is “completely unremarkable”.
But China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at foreign politicians for politicising the pandemic.
Backing for the motion comes amid worsening relations between Australia and China after Trade Minister Simon Birmingham suggested local businesses would probably start looking elsewhere to sell their products to spread their risk.
The minister also told ABC television on Sunday he had tried to contact his Chinese counterpart by phone directly to try and soothe the growing rift, but he has yet to get a return call.
China is threatening to slap a large tariff on Australian barley imports following an anti-dumping investigation, while it has blocked beef imports from four abattoirs.
Such actions have come within weeks of Australia calling for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, sparking a furious response from China.
Senator Birmingham said the government has lodged a comprehensive response to China’s 18-month investigation into barley dumping, rejecting the suggestion that the Australian industry is subsidised so it can flood the market with cheaply priced barley.
He said he may be forced to take the issue to the World Trade Organisation if China presses ahead with its threat, an independent umpire Australia has used in the past to settle disputes.